A couple of weeks ago I led a small group of women through the process of setting boundaries with their mothers.
We spent time on the “how to” part: Request + Action + Benefit = Healthy Boundary
You make a request, you follow up with action, and you understand the benefit. Boom. You have just set a boundary.
Request: I’d love to chat with you once a week for half an hour.
Action: If you call me more than that, I won’t answer the phone.
Benefit: This way I’ll be able to give you my undivided attention.
If it’s so easy, why not do it?
That’s why we spent a lot more time on why they weren’t setting boundaries:
I don’t know what I am doing. It’s not reasonable for me to have a boundary. It can’t be done. It’s impossible. The blowback isn’t worth it. It’s exhausting. I don’t even want to approach it. It’s terrifying. I’m being selfish. It’s my fault. There’s going to be no relationship. She’ll kill me. She brought me into the world and she can take me out. It feels like I might die.
It feels like I might die.
I have literally been there. I have felt that terror while at the same time telling myself not to be ridiculous.
And you know what? There’s some truth to it, figuratively speaking, because in a way, a part of you IS going to die. The person you are now – the daughter who lives in reaction to her mother, who doesn’t have boundaries with her mother – is no longer going to exist. And in her place will be a newer version of you – an autonomous, responsive woman who is clear about what she stands for, and who has healthy boundaries.
There’s no doubt in my mind that you can set boundaries with your mother.
And you have doubt. Of course you do. You’ve got so much evidence for why it won’t work. And you will have that doubt right up to the point where you actually set the boundary. Then you will have evidence that it is possible. And then the doubt will come back when you have to revisit the boundary (because you will).
Honor your fears and doubts. Thank them for trying to keep you safe. But don’t let them stop you. Learn how to work with your nervous system, not against it, in service to what you want more of in your life.
In my upcoming guided journal (The Difficult Mother-Daughter Relationship Journal: A guide for revealing and healing toxic patterns that sabotage your relationship) I will be sharing several simple practices that will help you work with your nervous system, versus trying to override it.
Here’s a simple one:
Affirm yourself and your presence.
Stand up in your space. Plant your feet firmly on the ground. Stand tall. Hold your arms out. Take up as much space you want to and say, “I am here. My name is [your name]. It is [date, time] and I am here in [location]. I am alive and present here and now.”
Notice how it feels in your body to do this.
Much, much love,